At a time when UAA's hockey program is in the market for a new leader and an identity makeover, Chris Brown believes his dozen seasons as a Division III head coach have prepared him to deliver the goods on both fronts.
The former UAA assistant coach and current bench boss at Augsburg College in Minneapolis has been a D-III head coach at three Midwest schools since he left Anchorage in 2000. That depth of experience, he said, will translate to Division I.
"It's invaluable,'' he told a public forum Monday night on UAA's campus. "It's about leadership. It's about understanding people.
"The head coach has to understand people. He can't just go to work and push pucks.''
As an example of a Division III head coach who made an immediate impact in the same position at the Division I level, Brown pointed to his friend Norm Bazin. The longtime UMass-Lowell and Colorado College assistant coach took the head job at Division III Hamilton College in 2008, turned around that program in three seasons and then became head coach at Division I UMass-Lowell, his alma mater. This season, his second guiding the River Hawks, Bazin led them to the Frozen Four and won the Spencer Penrose Award as Division I Coach of the Year.
Brown, 42, one of four finalists to become UAA coach after the school fired Dave Shyiak last month following eight seasons, said he believes this is his time.
"I've never felt more right about something in my life as I do about this,'' Brown said.
In his dozen seasons as a Division III head coach, Brown has gone 144-146-23 (.497 winning percentage) and three times has been a conference coach of the year.
Brown served as an assistant coach at UAA under Dean Talafous for three seasons (1997-2000) before becoming head coach at Division III Marian (Wis.). Talafous' clubs seldom took penalties and were very defensive-oriented, tactics Talafous employed to keep games close.
Brown noted the game has changed greatly in the interim and said he puts a premium on speed and a style of play that entertains.
"It's got to be fun for the fans to watch, fun for the players to play and fun for me to coach,'' Brown said.
Brown said he was very involved in the Anchorage hockey community during his stint at UAA and would again engage alumni, boosters, fans and youth hockey. That's one way, he said, to keep local talent home.
Without mentioning Lane Bauer of Anchorage by name, he noted that the forward largely considered the best high school-age player in the state has already committed to UAF.
"You can't lose the top player in Anchorage and have him go to Fairbanks,'' Brown said. "If that happens on my watch, I should get some heat. A local player should be a priority for the program, if he's the right fit.''
Brown was the third of four finalists to interview in Anchorage, following Division I Air Force associate head coach Mike Corbett and Division I Michigan Tech assistant Damon Whitten, who served two seasons as an assistant under Shyiak at UAA.
The fourth finalist, Division III Utica College (N.Y.) head coach Gary Heenan, will appear at a public forum Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Lucy Cuddy Dining Room on campus.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.